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Dublin: 8 °C Thursday 21 November, 2019
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Engineers say damage to cracking staircase in Dublin council block was painted over

Extensive scaffolding was installed in the staircase last week after it moved and cracked.

ENGINEERS HIRED BY Dublin City Council to assess a block of apartments where a staircase has moved and cracked believe the structural damage has been present for a long period of time – and has been painted over in some parts.

Last week TheJournal.ie visited residents at Block 8 in Cromcastle Court in Coolock, where the council had erected extensive scaffolding to secure the staircase, which it admitted had moved.

Now we can reveal a report commissioned by the council has indicated the structural issues with the staircase have been present for some time and were painted over when the council did refurbishment work.

The council arranged for supports to be installed in the staircase recently after a resident sent in a photo of large cracks in the ceiling of the staircase.

ceiling A large crack in the ceiling at the entrance to the block. Source: Michelle Hennessy/TheJournal.ie

A site inspection took place last Monday and engineers hired by Dublin City Council found the recent movement of the stair flight was “apparent” and there was a 20mm horizontal open joint visible between the flight and the landing on the first floor.

They stated that this gap in the joint “in large part anyway” existed before the movement took place.

There were also indications between the first and second floors of movement and damage to the connection between the half-landing and the precast stair flight.

“Steel reinforcing bars could be seen protruding from the underside of the half landing,” the report notes.

The exposed rebar [reinforcing bar] had been painted white and exhibited signs of corrosion indicating its exposure over a long period of time. Painting to the face of the precast slab in the joint indicates that the large gap between landing and stair flight is not recent.

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

The report states it is likely that excessive corrosion of steel bars in the staircase led to the movement between those two floors.

“The stair flight at this location is now wedged in a dropped position.”

According to the report, the corrosion is possibly linked to the frequent washing down of the stairs with detergents over many years.

The joint between the precast flights and the landings were improperly sealed at construction stage or the seal has since failed. This has allowed penetration of water into the joint resulting in bar corrosion.

block8 A part of the concrete floor in the stairwell has dropped. Source: Michelle Hennessy/TheJournal.ie

The engineers said they believe the simplest solution is to provide a galvanised steel beam across the stairwell in all affected locations, which the council has agreed to provide. A contractor has been hired and the beam is expected to be manufactured and installed within three to four weeks.

In a letter sent to all residents yesterday, Dublin City Council said that it had received the engineering report on Friday and will conduct an in-depth structural survey of the block, with a consulting engineer beginning the work today.

The council said the props put in place to support the stairwell are “100% safe”.

Once Block 8 has been surveyed, all remaining blocks at Cromcastle Court will be examined.

The council also said it will appoint a project manager who will liaise with residents and give them updates every day. The project manager “will also be available to discuss any housing requirements you may have,” the letter says.

The local authority said it will need to consider the regeneration and redevelopment of the entire complex at Cromcastle Court in the near future.

Commenting on the results of the report, local Fianna Fáil councillor Sean Paul Mahon said it is “obvious someone has seen this [damage] before and they’ve ignored it”.

“In the report, it says this is because of water damage, cleaning down the stairs with bleach and they have continued to do that since the report.”

He explained that a few years ago the council started to move tenants out of these blocks of apartments, which were build around 50 years ago, so they could knock them down and rebuild. They boarded up a number of the flats, but when the housing crisis hit, there was pressure to open them back up again to meet the demand.

He said the refurbishment work that was done when the council decided not to demolish the blocks was “just putting a bit of a plaster on it”.

There are 16 families currently living in the block. Mahon said residents now have mixed feelings about what will happen next – some who have been at Cromcastle Court for more than 20 years do not want to leave their homes, while others are keen to escape the damaged building.

He said the council has not indicated whether or not residents, in the longterm, will have to move out of the building for the duration of the structural repairs.

“I believe the plan is to start work on a trial basis and see how it’s working with the noise levels with people still living in the apartments. The vast majority of the people in that complex work and some work shift work so they’d be sleeping during the day.”

Mahon said the council is now planning to get an assessment of the entire block to check for other structural issues in the apartments themselves. At yesterday evening’s council meeting, he said councillors were told the work on the staircase will begin in four weeks when steelwork that has been ordered arrives.

A meeting with all residents and councillors will take place this Thursday with council management. The Lord Mayor will also visit Block 8 this week.

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